(Following is a Letter to the Editor expressing an opinion shared by the letter writer)
Frustration does not fully describe our mood as we left the Candidates Forum for the 1st and 32nd ward organized by the Wicker Park Committee on January 6th. The goals of such meetings are to pose critical, precise questions vital to our futures. Good organizers of serious forums don’t allow candidates to escape with generalities and they do follow-ups if the public servants are not forthcoming.
Unfortunately this meeting wasted time on issues that were beyond the candidates powers (policing, education); secondary in nature (biking, red-light cameras) or very obvious (who votes against preservation?). When we tried to address the issue of economical development our question was trivialized. On three different occasions, we tried to ask the moderator for the opportunity to address the issue but instead his “security detail” told us we would be escorted out.
We wanted to ask “Why isn’t this neighborhood developed to be Chicago’s destination for tourism? This would attract millions of dollars each year. This infusion to our local economy would certainly resolve a majority of the other little problems:
Top 10 reasons Wicker Park/Bucktown could be Chicago’s destination:
1. Beyond the Lakefront, Millenium Park and Broadway in Chicago, metropolitan Chicago does not offer much to a more demanding out of town or foreign visitor. Fountains, ferris wheels, music shells, etc. are the features of almost every big city around the world.
2. There is a need for an alternative, vibrant, small and artistically sophisticated neighborhood such as New Orlean’s French Quarter; Key West’s Duvall Street; New York’s Greenwich Village,Austin,Texas, etc. Everyone’s relaxed as there is no “mob” mentality.
3. There’s already the presence of “cool”, original restaurants, boutiques, jazz clubs, used bookstores, galleries and theaters. Which would flourish with influx of tourists 7 days/week.
4. The area is very close to downtown and has three train stops on the main route to O’Hare Airport.
5. We have a great tradition of world class art. Not long ago there were several theaters and 20+ galleries.
6. Biographies of many famous people and events have their origins here
7. Extraordinarily wide sidewalks on Division -- ideal for art installations, people gatherings, and festivals
8. Despite brutal gentrification, still a lot of attractive houses, public building and spaces, churches, etc
9. There are thousands of interesting, dynamic, educated people still living in this area that, if engaged, could be a part of the reenergizing of this neighborhood
10. The area has around $1 million from special service area taxes (SSA#33) which were intended to enhance Wicker Park/Bucktown main corridors
No neighborhood in Chicago even comes close to having this potential. We’ve done our part and in the past 20 years we’ve brought close to 1 million people to this area.
Zygmunt Dyrkacz & Lela Headd
P.S. Tourists are not people that guzzle six packs, eat cheap food and puke in our gardens. But of course how we develop our area is the question!